2nd Sunday After Pentecost
June 23rd, 2019
Pastor Tom Schulz
Dear Friends in Christ,
It was the crowning achievement of King Solomon’s reign. It was a beautiful building made of the finest of materials. Much of it was covered with gold. It was the center of Israel’s worship, the dwelling place of the true God. It was the temple in Jerusalem.
This magnificent building needed to be dedicated. King Solomon could have bragged about how well he had done in building the temple, bragged about its beauty and workmanship. But he didn’t. In humility, he put all the attention on the Lord God.
1 Kings 8 gives us Solomon’s prayer at the temple dedication. His prayer begins this way: “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below.” So we say:
NO GOD LIKE THE LORD
I. Why is the Lord unique? He keeps his promises.
Solomon’s words of praise point this out: “You who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.” The Lord had made a promise to his people which was repeated many times in the Old Testament. “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” This was his covenant of love, not just for Israel, but also for all people.
That covenant was established already in the Garden of Eden after our first parents fell into sin. Instead of crushing them, God promised to crush the tempter, the devil. This was his love for Adam and Eve.
He repeated that promise of a Savior many times. He identified the Messiah in different ways, calling him the suffering servant of the Lord, calling him the prophet greater than Moses, calling him the bright morning star.
All those names refer to Jesus Christ. God’s covenant of love is clear when we see Jesus taking our place, suffering for our sins and dying for all our failures. The love of God is clear when Jesus rises in victory, assuring us that every sin is forgiven. The love of God is clear in the resurrection promise of eternal life through faith in the risen Savior. The Lord God keeps his promises.
So why is there no god like the true God? His covenant of love is one-sided. He does all the work; we get all the benefits. How different that is from all the other gods in the world. They all demand that people have to do a great deal of work in order to earn the love of their gods. The true God delivers his blessings free of charge.
His covenant is, as Solomon says, “with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way.” Is this true of us? Are we wholeheartedly committed to God? Or are we half-hearted? Are we riding the fence or just going through the motions of being a believer? Do we, at times, pay more attention to the things of this world than to our relationship of faith with Jesus? Do we, at times, prefer the path of sin rather than the perfect path of our God? Oh, how much we God’s forgiveness every day.
As forgiven sinners, may we live up to what Solomon says. Be wholehearted in your relationship with the Lord God. Be fully committed to him, putting him in the first position in your life. Desire to follow his will and live to his glory. And when we fail, humbly come before your Lord, confessing your sins, and receiving the assurance that because of Jesus you are forgiven.
So why bother being wholehearted if God so graciously forgives us? That’s simple. God has kept all his promises to you, especially the promise of sending you a Savior from sin. Keep that truth in front of you day by day. His love and faithfulness will inspire you to be wholehearted, totally committed to the Lord God who keeps his promises every day.
II. Those promises are not just for us. As Solomon mentions in the prayer, there is no one like the Lord God. He welcomes all people.
You see, the true God is not some local deity. At the time of Solomon each region or even each city had its own god or set of gods. These were local gods who were somewhat limited in scope and power.
Yet the true God is not limited at all. He is present everywhere in the world he created. He is for everyone who lives on the face of the earth.
The world hasn’t changed much from the time of Solomon. Our world still has many religions and many gods. Most are related to the culture of a certain area. Yet there is no God like the true God. Our God is above and beyond culture. The true God extends his covenant of love to people in every corner of the world. This is why we share the same faith with people from many different countries, who have many different cultures, but who still worship the same Lord.
That’s why we can say with Solomon, “As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel, but has come from a distant land because of your name, to pray toward this temple.” Solomon knew that this beautiful temple would attract people from many nations. People would come to learn about the Lord God and his promises. Solomon is proclaiming that the Lord will welcome them and make them part of his covenant of love.
We know that the beautiful temple of Solomon was later destroyed, but then rebuilt. It wasn’t nearly as magnificent. Yet in the book of Acts, we hear about the man from Ethiopia who came to Jerusalem, not just to look at the temple, but to worship the true God at that temple.
This is still what we want to happen. Our church is not as magnificent as the temple of Solomon. But that’s not what’s important. What’s important was expressed so well by a lady who was in charge of the cafeteria at the Benson public schools. I was talking about a unique restaurant that I had seen in Tucson. Beautiful architecture. That’s when she interrupted me and said, “It might look good on the outside, but what counts is how good the cooking is in the kitchen.” She was absolutely right.
Now apply that to our church. It looks good, but the most important thing is the message that is delivered inside these walls. That’s food that feeds the soul. That’s what we use to attract people to God. As Solomon said, “They will hear of your great name and your mighty hand and outstretched arm.” That’s God’s message. He reaches out to everyone with the saving message of Jesus.
III. Finally, there is no God like the Lord God because only he answers our prayers.
Prayer is a universal religious practice. But so many are praying to a god who is deaf because that god is made of wood or stone or is a figment of someone’s imagination. Such gods cannot hear or answer anyone’s prayers.
That’s why there is no God like the Lord. In his prayer, Solomon asks the Lord, “Hear from heaven, your dwelling place.” Hear the prayers of all the people who believe in Jesus. And God answers the prayers of his believing people. He answers them in his own way and at his own time. That means that sometimes we have to wait patiently for the answer.
Because God welcomes us and loves us and answers our prayers, we will respond to his goodness. We will show him respect because we recognize that his wisdom is perfect, and he always knows what is best for us. We will trust him in every situation because we know he is faithful to us. We will keep growing in faith as the Holy Spirit feeds us through Word and Sacrament. And then we will confess with Solomon, “There is no God like you who keeps his promises of love, welcomes all people, and answers our prayers.” This is why we serve Father, Son and Holy Spirit, our gracious and loving God. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.